On the surface, Saudi Arabia may not appear to be a lively place in terms of festivals.
The Kingdom’s only official holidays are the Muslim holy days of Eid ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan.
The lesser-known Eid al-Adha holiday held roughly 70 days after Ramadan, the anniversary of modern Saudi Arabia’s 1932 founding, Unification of the Kingdom Day is one of the few Saudi Arabia holidays held on a set date on the Western calendar instead of the Islamic calendar.
The two-week Janadriyah National Festival, held each February, is about as lively as Saudi festivals get.
From the camel races, traditional souks, and poetry readings to flower shows, we check out some of the best-known festivals in Saudi Arabia to help you soak yourself in the Kingdom’s culture.
Janadriyah National Festival
Known also as Al-Janadriyah, this is one of the most popular festivals in Saudi Arabia to celebrate the Kingdom’s local culture and heritage.
Held just outside Riyadh, in Janadriyah, the two-week-long festival offers a sight into all shades of Arabian life.
You can enjoy many activities, from local craft markets to folk dancing; there’s always something to impress and entertain everyone.
Visitors of all ages can watch and enjoy the camel and horse races, and gets spoilt with the variety of delicious local food and drink on offer.
Every year, Saudi Arabia invites one country from all over the world as a guest of honor.
France, Germany, and Indonesia have had the right in previous years; you may soon see your own home country being hosted as a guest of honor.
Like other Muslim nations worldwide, one of Saudi Arabia’s biggest celebrations occurs at the end of Ramadan.
Moreover, the month of fasting comes to its end with the three-day celebration of the Eid Al-Fitr festival in Saudi Arabia, as it does in Muslim countries.
The celebrations start with a modest morning meal and late morning prayers at the mosque. Once the people are finished with the Eid prayer, the celebrations step up a gear as locals host large feasts and festivities centered chiefly around their friends and family.
Speaking on Eid Al-Fitr, it is a family-driven occasion, but that doesn’t mean ex-pats can’t be involved in celebrating the occasion.
Most cities and towns put on celebrations for the whole community. In the evenings, Riyadh and Jeddah host spectacular firework displays for the public to watch and enjoy.
This most important Muslim festival continues for four days marking the moment when Ibrahim was willing to sacrifice Ismael, his son, for the will of Allah.
Traditionally, Saudi families will celebrate Eid al-Adha by dressing up in their finest garments. The day begins similarly to Eid Al-Fitr with late morning prayers and the sacrificing of lambs and sharing the meat with everyone.
All Saudi Muslims, along with the Muslims worldwide, celebrate the birthday of their Prophet, Mohammad, by decorating their homes and mosques. You’ll be able to tell it’s Milad al-Nabi by the lovely decorations alone.
Children recite poems about the Prophet, while older Saudis tell stories about Mohammad’s life and achievements.
Large feasts and street parades are conducted as Milad Al-Nabi’s traditional activities. The date for Milad al-Nabi varies from year to year as the Islamic calendar.
Riyadh Spring Festival
The Saudi Arabian winters are not as harsh as the ones people from western countries, but the passing of a much milder winter doesn’t stop the locals from celebrating Spring.
Each year, in Spring, Riyadh reawakens with a blaze of colorful outdoor activities celebrating the arrival of the milder season.
Along with the various agricultural displays, the main attractions are the flower displays.
Visitors are correct in thinking that this corner of the Middle East appears like the Netherlands more than Saudi Arabia during the Riyadh Spring Festival.
This once desert country blooms into vast carpets made up of more than a million flowers in breathtaking layouts, thus creating the perfect scenery for an Instagram shot.
Prepare yourself to be blown away by the show.
Unification of the Kingdom Day
It is A day of great importance in the cultural calendar of Saudi Arabia. Unsurprisingly, this is the day that marks the unification of the Saudi Kingdom, which took place way back in 1932.
Traditionally, this day is celebrated in a reserved style, unlike a national day that you might expect. Many Saudis choose to celebrate their national day at home with family.
However, off-late a number of young Saudis choose to take to the streets in a show of their patriotism so that you will see the odd gathering of lively flag-waving.
The ‘Unification of the Kingdom Day’ is the only holiday set by the Western calendar and takes place on September 23 every year. It is also Saudi Arabia’s only non-religious public holiday.
If you seek something different, then visit Souq Okaz; it is just the ticket.
During ancient times, the Souq Okaz was one of the largest markets of the pre-Islamic era. It attracted traders and travelers from the entire Middle Eastern region.
Today, to promote traditions, local culture, and heritage, the Saudi government holds an annual review of the souq in its original historic location.
This Souq Okaz festival has now established itself as one of the most popular festivals in Saudi Arabia.
Aside from cultural arts and crafts stalls, the souq also hosts a range of Arabic traditional events. Twelve sought-after awards are distributed in a range of categories, such as poetry, photography, and theater.
Jeddah Summer Festivals
In Jeddah, this month-long summer extravaganza has quickly become one of the most popular festivals in Saudi Arabia for ex-pats. The event brings the city to life with a wide array of activities and events.
Here, there is always something for everyone to enjoy in the range of activities from sports events to poetry readings.
The festival’s highlight is the one-night-only music concert Jeddah World Fest, which draws in a vast crowd. The 2019 edition of the World Fest was a big hit with the local audiences; the crowd enjoyed the performances from 50 Cent and Liam Payne.
So, if you enjoy the traditional and the modern, you are sure to find them at the Jeddah Summer Festival.
This is our list of almost everything, from religious festivities to national pride holidays, local heritage, and culture. These are the celebrations that highlight the best of the Saudi community Festivals.